Preface and Guide to the Bibliography

by Kenneth E. Carpenter

Benjamin Franklin’s Way to Wealth (WTW) appeared in a number of different types of publications, and this bibliography attempts to record appearances in whatever form, not only separately published printings. The forms, or genres, have been treated differently in this bibliography. They are listed below, followed by a detailed description of the different types of entries.

1) WTW in a newspaper; 2) WTW in a periodical; 3) WTW in an almanac, calendar, or other annual; 4) WTW in an anthology, usually one for schools; 5) Editions of Franklin’s works under a variety of titles; 6) WTW published as part of a biography; 7) WTW as a contribution to a book, but with Franklin’s name on the title page; 8) Separate editions of WTW alone or with a few other pieces by Franklin; 9) WTW as a children’s book; 10) WTW in a schoolbook

Description of entries by genre or form


All of the newspaper entries come from searching digitized collections of newspapers, and almost all are for American newspapers, with a few British.  The body of the entry first records the title and exact date(s) of the newspaper appearance, and then it gives the title under which WTW appeared.  If there is an added statement that is transcribed.  By no means do all appearances record Franklin as author; and if the newspaper does not, that is noted, since it indicates that the message was independent of the renown of the author.  I do not record the page number(s) on which WTW appears or the volume of issue number of the newspaper, only the date.  The title of the digitized collection is given as the location.  Since finding newspaper appearances is dependent on digitized files, the listing is incomplete.  It nonetheless shows that WTW was widely disseminated.  Indeed, one suspects that its dissemination was not dependent on the message itself but on the fact of its relative brevity, thus making it a useful filler for publishers of newspapers.


Entries for periodical appearances, unlike for newspapers, give volume and issue numbers.  Since identification of Franklin as author is sometimes in the table of contents and not in the piece itself, entries note whether Franklin is identified either with the title of the article or in the table of contents.  At times a note on the nature of the periodical is included.  Because finding periodical appearances is mostly dependent on digitized files, the completeness of the listing for periodical appearances is dependent on digitization; and for non-English-speaking parts of the world, the listing is especially  incomplete.  As with newspapers, entries include the name of the digitized collection.


Entries for almanacs are essentially like those for newspapers, except that the title and imprint of the almanac are transcribed in full; and, if possible, the pagination is given.

Schoolbook Anthologies

WTW appeared in numerous schoolbook anthologies, without indication on the title page.   Title and imprint are transcribed fully.  Pagination is given, but not signature collation.  The title of the WTW appearance is given, with pagination, along with a statement about the text type.  If that transcription does not indicate Franklin’s authorship, the table of contents is checked to see if he is so identified.  At times, a quotation from the editor or publisher’s prefatory material is included, as a means of indicating the purpose of the anthology.  A note may also be added about other selections in the anthology.  The location is given, which may be digital.  If there is more than one edition of the anthology, reference to subsequent editions is made as part of the entry for the first, with a cross reference back to it part of the entry for later editions.

Franklin Collected Editions

By “collected edition” is meant a volume having the title of Works, or some other general title indicating that many writings of Franklin are there contained.  Editions of the Autobiography are included under this heading.  Some are multivolume; but the entry in this bibliography is only for the volume containing WTW, a policy adopted by reason of this being a bibliography of WTW, not of Franklin in general; exceptions are made.  Entries include pagination and at times indications of the market for the edition.  If copies have been seen in cloth or in wrappers, that is noted.  The collected editions often have a complicated genealogy of issues, printings from the same plates or type, or of line-for-line reprints.  An attempt has been made to record the genealogy.  Collected editions in foreign languages are treated in fuller fashion.  Sometimes WTW is combined with a few other pieces by Franklin, but these are customarily referred to as “separate edition.”

WTW as Part of a Biography

Sometimes WTW is not listed separately in the table of contents but is instead simply printed as part of the biography itself.

WTW as a Contribution to Another Work

WTW was sometimes published as parts of other books of advice, with reference to Franklin or WTW on the title page.  In keeping with the aim of providing the context of appearances, these are described in full, with a full record of contents and, if possible, signature collations.  If Franklin’s name is not on the title page, the description is usually like that for an anthology.

WTW as a Separate Edition

Also included in this category are editions of WTW with a few other texts, generally of Franklin.  Entries are full, with a full record of contents and, if possible, signature collations.  In the case of broadsides, the heading will also so indicate.

WTW with other Frankliniana [or with Non-Frankliniana]

WTW was often published with some other Franklin pieces, such as “The way to make money plenty in every man’s pocket,” “Advice to a young tradesman.” “Necessary hints to those that would be rich,” “The whistle,” “The advantages of drunkenness,” “Maxims for married gentlemen,” “Maxims for married ladies,” “The causes of men wanting money,” and “Directions how persons may supply themselves with money at all times.” 

Style within Entries

The style of entries is not bound by the practices of library cataloging or of bibliographical databases, which means, for example, that punctuation of imprints is not standardized.  The style is also not entirely in conformity with that laid out in Philip Gaskell’s A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford, 1974) and other works laying out recommendations about, for example, binding descriptions.  The reason is in part the purpose of the bibliography, with its emphasis on cultural and intellectual history, and the desire of the compiler that others besides descriptive and analytical bibliographers be able to read entries, even be drawn into them.  Some practices are shaped by the compiler’s competence and his desire to finish the work. 


Each entry is headed by the date, followed by place in parentheses, plus an indication of genre.  In rare circumstances a further characterization is added to help the reader distinguish quickly between similar entries.  Ultimately, each entry will begin with a number.

Titles and imprints

Titles, both of appearances in other publications and on title pages, are transcribed fully, as are imprints.  Capitalization is not followed, but punctuation is.  Thus, if layout serves instead of a period, none is in the entry, only additional space.

Pagination, collation, and size

Entries for separate editions of WTW or for works recording WTW on the title page as a part have collations, if the book has been seen.  The collation shows the format in terms of binding, not of the printer’s layout.  Pagination is placed before the signature collation.  Size is to the nearest half centimeter and is given only for height.


The basic pattern is page number (in brackets, if not actually numbered), followed by the text, then a semicolon.  At times the text following a page number is not actually in the book, in which case it is lower case, but always upper case if actually in the book.  A final blank verso is not recorded.


There are many varieties of notes, many in the form of quotations.  Quotations are transcribed exactly, except that words in full caps or large and small caps are merely capitalized.

Bibliographical references

Bibliographical references are kept to a minimum, but always given if information comes from the bibliography. Generally, a bibliography is not cited unless it contains information that has enriched the entry. References to contemporaneous bibliographical listings, to reviews, or to other periodical articles are given in the notes.


This bibliography is not a census of copies, so, except in special cases, only copies seen in hand or in digital form are recorded.  Call numbers are usually given only when a library has multiple copies that are here recorded as being different. The call number makes it possible to verify or disprove an entry in this bibliography. Occasionally, a call number or other information on location is given if it finding the item would otherwise be very difficult. 

In the list of locations, the digital copy is always recorded first, with, if possible, an indication of the library that holds the original. Sometimes I also saw the original, but I found it impossible to record consistently when I had done so.

In this type of bibliography information has come from many sources in many forms. Occasionally, though rarely, I have relied on a description made by a librarian. Not infrequently my entry is based on scans of only a few pages of a book or pamphlet.  I have found no satisfactory way to record precisely how I came by my entry, which is problematic in the sense that some entries are less full or, perhaps, less reliable than others. What the reader can rely on is that entries with certain locations have—almost always—actually been seen. These are copies located in the following libraries:

The Forms of the Text in English

As described in the Franklin Papers, the text—and the title—changed. I believe, along with Green and Stallybrass that Franklin was behind the changes.  There are three basic forms, although Form 2 was used only in a couple of instances.

Form 1) WTW was first published as the Preface to Poor Richard Improved for 1758, and it was initially published separately as Father Abraham’s Speech to a Great Number of People.  This first version was also termed “Preliminary Address prefixed to the Pennsylvania Almanack for 1758.”  Its text begins:

I have heard that nothing gives an Author so great Pleasure, as to find his Works respectfully quoted by other learned Authors.  This Pleasure I have seldom enjoyed; for tho’ I have been, if I may say it without Vanity, an eminent Author of Almanacks now for a full Quarter of a Century, my Brother Authors in the same Way, for what Reason I know not, have ever been sparing in their Applauses; and no other Author has taken the least Notice of me, so that did not my Writings produce me some solid Pudding, the great Deficiency of Praise would have quite discouraged me.

I concluded at length, that the People were the best Judges of my Merit; for they buy my Works; and besides, in my Rambles, where I am not personally known, I have frequently heard one or other of my Adages repeated, with, as Poor Richard says, at the End on’t; this gave me some Satisfaction, as it showed not only that my Instructions were regarded, but discovered likewise some Respect for my Authority; and I own, that to encourage the Practice of remembering and repeating those wise Sentences, I have sometimes quoted myself with great Gravity.

Note that the first sentence of Form 1 ends with “by other learned Authors.”  In Forms 2 and 3, the first sentence ends “by others.”

Form 2) In 1771, a new version appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine under the title of “Substance of a Preliminary Address prefixed to an old Pennsylvania Almanack, intitled Poor Richard Improved.  This version reduced the above text to one sentence, concluding “by others,” immediately followed by what was the third paragraph of Form 1, beginning: “Judge then how much I must have been gratified by an incident I am going to relate to you.”  Form 2 also reduced “Poor Richard Says” and its variants from forty-nine to six.

I have heard that nothing gives an author so great pleasure, as to find his works respectfully quoted by others.  Judge then how much I must have been gratified by an incident I am going to relate to you.  I stopped my horse lately where a great number of people were collected at an auction of merchant goods.

Form 3) In the 1770s, pamphlets and broadsides appeared that kept Form 2’s  reduced introductory statement; and although other changes were made, this form of the text can most readily be distinguished from form no. 2 by the increase to twenty-six in the number of appearances of “Poor Richard Says.”  Appearances vary as to whether the text is divided into four numbered sections. That was done in the 1779, London, edition of Franklin’s Works, edited by Benjamin Vaughan under the title Political, miscellaneous, and philosophical piece. Most, but not all, subsequent printings of Form 3 have numbered sections.

It turns out that there are other textual variations within Forms 1 and 3 that it has not been possible to record. Among them are use of “vendue,” or “auction,” or “sale; or “to sell” or “by selling”; “goal” or “jail.” Recording them would have been useful in indicating the source text used for a reprint. 

Every effort has, however, been made to record in eighteenth-century apperances one particular variation.  The sentence “Whereas a freeborn Englishman ought not to be ashamed or afraid to see or speak to any man living” is the original text, but “Englishman” was often replaced, depending on the site of the appearance. The appropriate change was not invariably made.

The Forms of the Text in Translations

In some languages there are different translations, and an effort has been to destinguish them. They are described in a separate account of the texts of the translations that is available on this website.

Texts Repeatedly Printed with WTW

Instead of printing as part of the entry certain texts, the user of the bibliography will be referred to them. All do not correspond exactly to the transcriptions below.

“Dr. Franklin, wishing” Note

Dr. Franklin, wishing to collect into one piece all the sayings upon the following subjects, which he had dropped in the course of publishing the Almanac, called “Poor Richard,” introduces Father Abraham for this purpose.  Hence it is, that Poor Richard is so often quoted, and that, in the present title, he is said to be improved.  Notwithstanding the stroke of humor in the concluding paragraph of this address, Poor Richard (Saunders) and Father Abraham have proved, in America, that they are no common preachers.  And, shall we, brother Englishmen, refuse good sense and saving knowledge, because it comes from the other side of the water?”

“countrymen read with much avidity and profit”

Dr. Franklin having, for many years, published the Pennsylvanian Almanack, called Poor Richard (Saunders), furnished it with various sentences and proverbs, which had principal relation to the topics of “industry, attention to one’s own business, and frugality,” at last collected and digested the whole in the above general preface, which his countrymen read with much avidity and profit.

Randolph quote

Spare not, nor spend too much; be this thy care | Spare but to spend, and only spend to spare.

There are two main variations of the Preface to the Works.  Most of the text is the same, except for the initial paragraph and for the paragraph introducing the letter of Richard Price, dated at Hackney, June 19, 1790.

“As biography is” Preface to collected editions

As biography is a species of history which records the lives and characters of remarkable persons, it consequently becomes an interesting subject, and is of general utility. . . .”  It does not have the letter of Price and concludes: “To say more in this place of our Author, would be anticipating what is hereafter mentioned: it will therefore only be necessary to add, that due attention has been paid in the selection of such of his productions as may be adapted to general perusal.

The paragraph immediately preceding the letter of Richard Price reads:

To say more in this place of our Author would be anticipating what is hereafter mentioned: it will therefore only be necessary to add, that due attention has been paid in the selection of such of his productions as may be adapted to general perusal.  The following letter from the celebrated Dr. Price to a gentleman in Philadelphia, upon the subject of Dr. Franklin’s memoirs of his own life, will not, it is presumed, be considered inapplicable.

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